Taryn Simon and Smuggled Goods

The dead bird above was labeled as “home decoration”.

Photographer Taryn Simon spent 5 days at JFK Airport in New York photographing goods seized by the US postal service and the US Customs and Border Protection. She compiled over 1000 images for her series “Contraband”.

Rare and threatened animal species protected through CITES – the convention that protects trade in endangered species; or plants and animals that could become invasive when introduced into the US were among the items photographed.

Deer Antlers - CITES prohibited

It is easy for us to think that threats to endangered species are local issues somewhere far away from our daily lives. But a good proportion of it is driven by demand for animal parts or animals for decoration or collection in wealthy countries.  Taryn Simon’s series shows that there is demand for these products just like there is for counterfeit Viagra, illegal recreational drugs and all sorts of other items that she photographed during a brief stay.

South African cycad plant - CITES listed

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